If my disc herniations are not causing my pain, then what exactly are you treating?

With chiropractic clinics popping up in every neighbourhood in Singapore, it’s clear that chiropractic treatment is getting traction in Singapore. In fact, its popularity has transcend beyond treating the usual low back and neck pain to working with newborn babies. You have been experiencing back pain for a while, been told you have a slipped disc, and you are wondering if chiropractic can help.

To be clear, we don’t endorse chiropractic treatment for infants. 

What is chiropractic?

slipped disc singapore
Herniated discs may look scary but they aren’t always the root cause of your pain.

In order to answer the question, we must first define what chiropractic is. For most parts, it is agreed that chiropractic is a (allied) health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and/or management of musculoskeletal disease. With this in view, disc herniations will fall within the scope of chiropractic.

In other words, chiropractors can treat your “slipped disc”.

However, we want to be super clear that chiropractic and chiropractic adjustments (aka spinal manipulations) are not synonymous. Chiropractic refers to the profession while spinal adjustments is a type of treatments provided by chiropractors. Spinal adjustments are also utilised by other practitioners such as osteopaths, physiotherapists, and even tik tar practitioners.

@ongyekung Our spine is absolutely important to our well-being. Here are some exercises we can do to keep them in good shape. #physiotherapy ♬ To Be Successful(971065) – TimTaj

Spinal manipulation is so popular that even the largest hospital in Singapore, Singapore General Hospital, used it for content. YOu can see our Health Minister Ong Ye Kung being adjusted by a SGH physiotherapist. Yes, physiotherapists can adjust spines as well!

Can chiropractic adjustments or spinal manipulation help with my “slipped discs”?

jesse cai, orthopaedic singapore, chiropractic adjustment
Singapore Social star Paul Foster receiving an adjustment from chiropractor Jesse Cai. We stopped utilising spinal manipulation at Square One Active Recovery when we realised our clients kept coming back! The reason why chiropractic clinic offer lifetime packages is because the results are always temporary!

Anecdotally, we do hear of disc herniation patients responding well to adjustments. It does seem like they do provide short-term relief. However, clinical guidelines don’t seem to consider chiropractic adjustments as a first-line treatment for disc issues.

When we look at beliefs and attitudes towards adjustments, you start to see the polarising views between healthcare professionals. Chiropractors believe manipulations can reduce the chance of developing disc herniations by up to 60%. For the record, there is no study to backup this belief. Surgeons, on the other hand, believe spinal adjustments can increase the chance of getting slipped disc by up to 30%! Similarly, there’s no evidence to support this belief.

If we turn into biomechanical and physiological studies to look at how robust and sturdy our spinal discs are, it’s really almost impossible for chiropractors to “pop” a disc back into place. Even if we were to accept that it does provide pain relief, the relief is often short-term.

This is why adjustments are considered adjunctive treatments. The results are often temporary, and is seemingly no different from painkillers. Like you feel better after medicating, you also feel better after adjustments. The problem? Your pain always come back.

Your pain may not even be coming from your disc herniation!

chiropractor singapore, disc hernation
Disk bulge and disk protrusion both fall under disc herniations. In this sample size of 3110 pain-free individuals, we can see that many people have disc bulges and disc protrusions from as young as 20 years old!

It is totally possible that your back pain is not coming from your intervertebral. If you have no leg or arm numbness or tingling, and the main issue you have is pain, it’s even more likely that your pain is not coming from your disc “issues”. From the table above, you can see that pain-free individuals often have slipped discs. However, they don’t experience any pain! Given that we see that the percent increase with age, we think it’s possible that disc herniations are normal age-related changes. Similar to wrinkles or white hair!

Having said that, we are not trying to say that you pain is DEFINITELY not from your disc herniation. We are saying that it’s very possible that you have a slipped disc. You have back pain. And they have nothing to do with each other!

What is the treatment for my back pain?

The best way to figure this out is to consult with an evidence-based healthcare professional. According to the The Lancet’s guideline recommendations, exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy are first-line treatments for your low back aches and soreness.

In other words, whatever it is that you decide to choose in your treatment, it should include either exercise or cognitive behavioural therapy. Everything else that you may choose for treatment are either adjunctive (i.e., complement exercise) or downright useless (aka a waste of your time and money).

80 year old man, sciatica singapore, exercise treatment
Age is just a number. You can be 80, and be fit and pain-free.

We definitely see good results using exercise with our clients. You can check out our Google reviews to read more about how we help our clients using exercise. Mind you, we are not saying exercise is a magic cure that will heal you overnight. It takes hard work from you, and can often cause more pain at the start. However, when used correctly, you can get long-term results. This means no more endless useless treatments!

Chiropractic treatment in Singapore

chiropractic clinic singapore

Yes, exercise is your best bet when it comes to chronic back aches and soreness. This is true even if you are experiencing sharp, excruciating pain! Sure, you may ask if exercise is part of chiropractic.

The answer is yes!

Exercise is a big part of chiropractic since the very beginning. Early chiropractors used exercise to help patients achieve alignment of their spines. What we are doing at our practice is 100% part of chiropractic.

Unfortunately, many chiropractors in Singapore choose to not offer exercise as part of their treatment approach. The reason is because exercise as a treatment takes consideration longer time than just a five-minute full spine adjustment.

chiropractic adjustment, chiropractor singapore
The problem with instant pain relief is that your pain always comes back.

Furthermore, the relief from getting cracked is fairly short. Research suggests that it lasts for only 30 minutes. Many chiropractic patients will experience relief for a couple of days at most. This means they will need regular treatments. For this reason, choosing to mainly offer spinal adjustments is good for business! You have to keep coming back for more!

With the growth of science and research, we starting to learn more about body, and what actually helps with recovery. Both chiropractors and pain patients alike would have to keep up in order to achieve good outcomes. Yes, all of us have our own biases, beliefs, values. We are not denying that.

What we are saying is that, at some point, all of these have to go if we want good outcomes. We have to keep up with times. Especially if you are not getting better.

Have a think about it. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. What you need for extraordinary results is a radical change. This can start with the type of treatments you choose.


Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.